Selecting a 2D Barcode Reader App

When selecting a 2D barcode reader app, consumers/users should know that, in addition to mobile device compatibility, code detection capability and cost (free or paid), there are differences in functionality that may help determine which app is best or most appropriate for use.

Of the dozens and dozens of code reader apps currently on the market, some provide the bare minimum of functionality, which is the ability to just scan a code. On the other hand, there are some apps which provide a great deal of functionality, and enable a consumer/user to do the following: save and view a history of scanned codes, scan either 1D or 2D codes, enter a code directly, email or share a code, scan a web page for a code, store favorites and set preferences (e.g., set auto focus, set the camera flash, select a sound or vibrate on the scan, set language, set currency, set geolocation, etc.). Robust code reader apps such as these include: BeeTag, i-nigma, Lynkee, MobileTag, NeoReader, QuickMark, ScanLife and ZXing. All of these apps are free and I would be hard pressed to know what a paid app offers in the way of functionality that these do not.

Because there is no choice as to which code reader app can be used to scan and read a proprietary barcode (e.g., Microsoft Tag, AT&T Mobile Barcode, etc.), there is really no discussion to be had or consideration to be given in regard to functionality.

While all of the above may be helpful to the individual consumer/user, it can also be helpful to a company that wishes to make use of 2D technology. The thought here is that if a company chooses to "endorse" a specific code reader app, by mentioning it in their ad or promotion, then it might be important to know which app offers the most, or least, in the way of functionality. Additionally, the thought of app endorsement might give a company pause to think about private labeling a 2D barcode reader app and how that might play into their overall branding strategy.

Please comment if you know of other code reader apps that are worth taking a look at, or if I missed any worthwhile or important functions that one should have.

Note: I did not mention iPhone code reader apps, because I use an Android phone.


  1. Hi Roger, Of BeeTag, i-nigma, Lynkee, MobileTag, NeoReader, QuickMark, ScanLife and ZXing - do you prefer one over the other? I have used several of the mentioned readers; I tend to use ScanLife the most (I guess I like the interface). In reference to ScanLife, the only example I can think of in terms of what a person would get by paying would be having the ability to exceed three stored URLs but that has not been a problem for me as of yet.

  2. Another factor to consider is if you want to give a company all your scanning history. Most free apps 'phone home' each time you scan a code. Some even vector you through the company's site.

    This not only gives them a glimpse at each and every code you scan, it also slows down the actual time required to get to your destination. This, of course, raises privacy concerns.

    Another factor to consider are advanced features like vCard and vCal compatibility. More and more apps are recognizing these features. Being able to scan a QR and have it create a calendar entry (think concert or social event) is a KILLER feature that will be great... once most all the reader apps support it.

    For the record, I'm an iPhone4 user and primarily use Airsource's Optiscan. It's $4.99 but well worth it. It's fast, fast, fast. Also handles a wide range of QR code formats including the above mentioned vCard and vCal.

  3. Indeed I tested on my Galaxy S many 2D decoding apps and mainly all you mention which are robust but still different in features and performance. My preference is for Lynkee, because of good ergonomics and a lot of features (WiFi tag, Geolocation...). I have also seen the new version 2, until now available only on iPhone :-(; ...undoubtedly the most powerful 2D reader app available so far. Hope to have it on Android

  4. I am currently fascinated by using Google *Goggles* for reading QR codes.

    a) It's really fast. Faster than XZing on an Android (seems faster). The iPhone version is supposed to be equally as good, they didn't cripple it.

    b) It is a general image recognition tool. I can use the same app for information and search. Take a picture of a landmark, and I'm delivered search info on an ever expanding database

    c) There have been some trial run campaigns using logos or specific ad design elements to trigger a mobile experience, exactly like QR (Google's team have said they intend this to kill QR). If Goggles were allowed access to a phone's GPS data, then you would have Location data incorporated in the application. On Android, that will certainly be done in a pending version, to tie in with their other Location applications

    d) If there were a hack that would allow it to read Microsoft TAG, it would be the only all in one solution for image detection, QR and Tag. It's capable of reading TAG, but, it would have to strike a deal with Microsoft.

    e) It can solve Suduko puzzles instantly.

  5. Thanks for the mention, Dan!

    I can't really argue with what you say here, Roger, as these are all good quality products. I would add that most of the free readers that offer extra functionality (history, saving, sending, creation) are from larger companies making revenue from the back end analytics and advertising. Smaller companies, such as Airsource, are trying to make a quality scanning and creation product without tying people in to our servers or services. So we charge for the product. Admittedly, right now we need to offer more, but that is in hand - big updates on the way. ;)

  6. Chris: I use the reader apps interchangeably. No real preference.

  7. Dan: Thank you for the comment and information, especially about vCard and vCal data.

  8. Anonymous: Thank you for the comment. I have not really bothered much with Goggles, but might give it a try.

  9. Steve: Thank you for the comment. I plan to look into your product to learn more.